New tourist route shows off Boyne's hidden gems
WHICH tourist destination is 500 years older than the pyramids and boasts a history of a drowned goddess, a battle over a prize bull and one seriously clever fish?
For fans of ancient myths, historic sites, castles and battlegrounds, the Boyne Valley is full of hidden gems. A new driving route offers tourists a journey through one of the country's most important heritage areas.
Some €220,000 has been poured into the project to create a 'single package' which can be promoted in Ireland and around the world.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar has officially declared the route open and urged visitors and locals to explore the area, pointing out that it is right on Dublin's doorstep.
The driving route is part of a campaign by Failte Ireland, Meath and Louth county councils and local accommodation and service providers to get "culturally curious" tourists to visit and stay overnight.
The Boyne Valley Drive runs for 225km, taking in 22 historic sites in Meath and Louth – both "hidden gems" and well-known tourist draws.
The route includes the UNESCO World Heritage site at Newgrange, which predates the pyramids by half-a-century.
And long before the battle between the Jacobites and the Williamites, the Boyne was famous as the river which yielded the Salmon of Knowledge, source of Fionn MacCumhaill's wisdom.
The river itself is named for the drowned goddess Boann and the new tourism itinerary also includes the Cooley peninsula, where Queen Maeve of Connacht went in search of a bull to best the beast owned by her husband.
For those who prefer a more lyrical version of history, the route also includes the Old Mellifont Abbey, Ireland's first Cistercian Monastery, as well as Beaulieu House and Gardens.
Literary buffs will enjoy a wander around the Francis Ledwidge Museum, housed in the Slane birthplace of the First World War poet, while lovers of military history can visit the site where King William III and his father-in-law King James II fought for their rival claims to the English, Scottish and Irish thrones.
Kevin Moriarty, local head of operations for Failte Ireland, said: "This new route gives tourism in the north-east a compelling hook to lure the extra visitors and revenue that this region is well placed to deliver."
A free guide to the route includes a map and details of opening times and prices for all of the attractions. For more information, visit www.boynevalleydrive.ie.